Culture: Where to Wine and Dine in Whistler, British Columbia | Wine Enthusiast
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Where to Wine and Dine in Whistler, British Columbia

From the endless span of snowy slopes to the amazing apres-ski scene, the town of Whistler, British Columbia, has a lot to love. Its most famous attraction is Whistler Blackcomb, the largest ski resort in North America. Anchored by two massive mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, the operation boasts 8,000 acres of terrain, over 200 marked runs and bragging rights for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.

But although the tremendous ski conditions are an obvious draw for skiers and snowboarders during the winter months, it’s the thriving culinary scene that makes the town of Whistler a year-round destination. The resort town even hosts an annual celebration of food and drink called Cornucopia each fall. 

Restaurants and watering holes are clustered close to the base of the ski hills, offering everything from casual pub fare to elevated cuisine—all within walking distance of one another.  To help you wine and dine your way through Whistler, we’ve compiled a list of notable spots in town. 

Bearfoot Bistro experience apres and sabreing bubbles in the wine cellar.
Image Courtesy of Bearfoot Bistro

Bearfoot Bistro 

Bearfoot Bistro has been a ski town staple for nearly 30 years. It’s for good reason: Executive Chef Melissa Craig has become one of Canada’s top chefs, recognized as Canada’s Gold Medal Plates Culinary Champion in 2008. 

The restaurant offers unique, beyond-the-table dining experiences, from sabering a bottle in an underground wine cellar that houses over 15,000 bottles, to sipping on a flight of sub-zero in the ice encased, Ketel One-branded ice room, which claims to be the world’s coldest tasting room. Once seated, there’s the option to start your meal with fresh oysters, shucked at your table.  

Afterward, watch on as Craig and her team cook up delectable dishes like the Vancouver Island black cod served with ricotta cavatelli, bottarga, salsify, Romanesco and leeks. End with a sweet treat created by Pastry Chef Scott Penfold, like the nitro ice cream, created tableside using billowing clouds of liquid nitrogen. Add a sommelier-selected wine pairing, or pick a bottle from the extensive cellar. 

SIDECUT Steakhouse
Image Courtesy of SIDECUT Steakhouse

SIDECUT Steakhouse 

SIDECUT, located inside the Four Seasons Resort Whistler, was named both North America’s best hotel restaurant and Canada’s best hotel restaurant by the World Culinary Awards in 2022, so make reservations early. 

The “Spirit of the Mountains” cocktail menu features multi-sensory cocktails inspired by the alpine regions of the world. Consider the Volcan De Fuego, a rum-based spin on the Old Fashioned that comes served in a glass box, which opens with an enticing cloud of smoke. The restaurant also offers a global wine list, including a selection of bottles that use the Coravin wine preservation system, which allows wine to be poured without removing the cork. 

Equally enticing are the dishes served up by Executive Chef Sajish Kumar, who transferred from Four Seasons Doha (Qatar) to the Whistler property four years ago. Kumar’s meat-forward menu features hand-cut steaks ranging from a Black Label flat iron to a Japanese A5 Satsuma Wagyu. If seafood is more your speed, miso cod or spot prawns served with Humboldt squid paella are on offer. Vegetarians are invited to the table, too, with delicious dishes like wild mushroom risotto and house-made green pea gnocchi. 

Il Caminetto 

You’ll find authentic Italian dishes made with local ingredients and an extensive selection of global wines (including plenty of regional Italian bottlings ) at Il Caminetto. The restaurant took the gold medal at the Wine Program Excellence Awards and received the “Best of” Award of Excellence at the Vancouver International Wine Festival in 2019 for its curated wine selection. 

Pastas and breads are made in-house, and some offerings—like the veal cheek ragu and ricotta gnocchi topped with cremini mushrooms, kale gremolata and pangrattato—are made using Italian-imported oils and cheeses. Recent renovations to the space have created an upscale ambiance, with white tablecloths and minimalist decor swathed in the warm glow of a fireplace—symbolic of the restaurant’s name, which translates to “fireplace.” 

Wild Blue Restaurant
Image Courtesy of Wild Blue Restaurant

Wild Blue Restaurant and Bar 

When SIDECUT’s Kumar is not in the kitchen, he enjoys checking out Wild Blue Restaurant + Bar, which opened its doors in August of 2022. “The cocktails and drinks are great,” he shares. “I love the vibrant atmosphere and the culinary team offers a fresh and elevated take on Pacific Northwest cuisine.”

Expect dishes like bluefin tuna tataki served with daikon, shiso and lemon dressing, plus sides like the Yukon Gold pomme purée and seared scallops. In the drinks department, keep an eye out for classics like the Vesper martini, which James Bond fans will recognize as 007’s preferred take on the classic martini. Oenophiles will appreciate the wine options, too, with Wine Director Chris Edens prepared to provide picks from over 350 selections of wine in stock. 

21 Steps Kitchen + Bar interior
Image Courtesy of Leah Kathryn Photography

21 Steps Kitchen + Bar 

Bartender and Whistler local Dani Crowley calls the Raven Room home—more on that spot soon—but her favorite watering hole to visit on days off is 21 Steps. “[It’s] also locally owned with great food, a great drink program and knowledgeable bartenders,” she says. “I love the ambiance of The Attic (upstairs lounge) for some fun people-watching.” 

The spot’s name is taken from the 21 steps you’ll climb to get to this second-level eatery in the heart of Whistler Village. The spot has been serving up comfort food in a casual setting for nearly 20 years, with elevated small plates like the star anise and orange-glazed riblets served in a Chinese mustard and sweet soy sauce, plus an ever-changing list of house-made classic cocktails with a twist. A customer favorite is the Blue Steel, a pisco and gin-based sipper amped up with blue curacao and a frothy egg white. 

The Raven Room 

Wild Blue’s Executive Chef Derek Bendig is understandably enamored with his own place’s offerings, but he pinpoints the Raven Room as “the next best place for excellently crafted cocktails.” Head bartender and bar manager of 21 Steps, Johnny McMillen, agrees adding, “The Raven Room [has] fantastic cocktails, delicious bites and sunset patio views.” 

Two local couples—Luke and Brandi Woodnutt and Jason and Steph Redmond—first opened The Raven Room in 2018. Be on the lookout for everything from sustainability-minded cocktails made with local ingredients (think maple foam and Arbutus vanilla liqueur) to robust, large-batch punchbowls served in ornate glassware.

Meanwhile, a selection of small plates complements the diverse drinks menu. Crowd-pleasing bites include the potato puffs served with roasted jalapeño ranch dip and a selection of tartares, which include beetroot, beef, salmon and tuna varieties. 

Alta Bistro
Image Courtesy of Chris Brown / Alta Bistro

Alta Bistro 

Vancouver Magazine named Alta Bistro the best local dining spot in 2019, and it’s been a hotspot ever since. Owned and managed by longtime Whistler local, Eric Griffith, Alta Bistro is a true bistro by nature, bringing modern, French-style and seasonal alpine cuisine to the table. A robust list of rich dishes fill the menu, including the Rangeland bison tartare, served with wild rice, smoked yogurt, sesame gochujang and Habanada squash jam and the Brant Lake Wagyu bavette steak, sauced with a short rib Bolognese, parsnip and vanilla purée, green peppercorn jus and radicchio. 

Hand-crafted cocktails also draw a crowd, with drinks like the 24 Carat, which features a sweet and savory syrup of purple carrots, which are juiced by the bar team. Best of all, the quaint dining spot is tucked away from the bustling crowds of the village corridor, making it perfect for a quiet dinner.  

Rimrock Cafe 

One of Alta Bistro co-owner Eric Griffith’s favorite Whistler haunts is Rimrock Cafe, an upscale seafood restaurant that opened in Whistler in 1987. “One of my favorite things to eat there is lobster bisque with a glass of buttery Chardonnay. Something about it really works, especially in the winter months,” he says. “The Rimrock is a Whistler original,” Griffith continues. “I have many memories as a kid going there with my family. It really is what hospitality is all about.” 

Fish and game are at the forefront of the menu, drawing from the bounty available on British Columbia’s west coast.  

Look for seafood starters such as the seared scallops with apple and leek purée, pickled and charred leeks, teriyaki bacon jam and tobiko, and larger-plate entrees like the duck two ways—a confit of duck, sliced duck breast, knoedel and cranberry orange chutney. All pair well with the extensive list of cocktails on offer. 

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